The Boffo Tower: Shame and Embarrassment

November 15, 2015

I have in front of me as I type a new flyer put out by the consortium of Boffo Properties and the Kettle in their attempt to sell the neighbours on their proposal  for massive change on Commercial Drive between Venables and Adanac.

The first thought that comes to mind is that this postcard (for it is nothing more) is the developers’ latest attempt to avoid genuine face-to-face community involvement.  I guess when you have all that cash to throw around, the thought of actually meeting with real people seems somehow less attractive than letting your PR company and Canada Post take care of it.

The second thought is: where’s the tower?  The main item in the Kettleboffo proposal is a massive high-rise tower of at least 12 storeys and perhaps more.  But you wouldn’t ever know that from reading the postcard where the tower is never mentioned or alluded to.  It simply disappears from view.

A few weeks ago, the developers sent attractive young people from one of their pricy PR companies to go knock on a few doors in a form of “survey” of local opinion about the project.  They didn’t knock on my door – perhaps they knew better than to waste their time – but I have spoken to a number of householders who were approached.  They all remarked of the fact that the tower was not mentioned by the surveyors until and unless the householders brought it up.

So, that’s at least twice they have made deliberate attempts NOT to mention the Tower. What’s the problem? Are they ashamed of the Tower?  Are they embarrassed to be proposing something that is so out of touch with what the community wants?

The third thought is, why are the Kettle’s current facilities called “aging” in the postcard. The Kettle’s offices and drop-in centre was custom-built for them less than twenty years ago? Since when is a 20-year old building considered “aging”? Have they been terrible managers of the property, failing to maintain it?  Is that another source of embarrassment for them?

Finally, it is worth noting that kettleboffo in their postcard of this week and the Mayor in his letter of September 2015 both used the same term “aging” which, as we have shown, is inappropriate.  Could they both have been reading from the self-same talking points?  Hard to imagine another reason.

The Kettle and its services have been loyally supported by this community for forty years. It is time for the Kettle to recognize its own community responsibilities to those who have been such staunch supporters for so long and, on this occasion, to accept the loud and clear verdict of the community and back out of this awful deal. There are alternatives; the tower is just the lazy way out and one that will cost the Kettle — is already costing the Kettle — community support, now and on onto the future.

Let’s Forget About “Affordable” Housing

November 15, 2015

In Vancouver there has been endless talk and spin about “affordable housing”.  It is an important subject, but one that has no accepted guidelines for the debate. For example, many groups and institutions say that anything that costs more than 30% of gross income is not affordable, while Councilor Jang and others have proclaimed, unhelpfully, that “affordable is whatever you can afford.”

Mayor Robertson and his development cronies say that any rental or any condo of whatever price is affordable because it is more affordable than buying a house in Vancouver. He and they are deliberately confusing the terms “affordable” and “cheaper”.  Just because a $600,000 condo is cheaper than a house at $1.2million, it doesn’t make the condo any more affordable to the average Vancouver wage earner making $50,000 a year.

Obviously the term “affordable housing” has been spun out of any meaning, and I say it should be abandoned altogether.

I prefer the term “lower-income housing” because that is what we are actually talking about.  However, I recognise that will quickly be spun into a pejorative.

So how about “median-income housing”. This would have a very specific meaning as we know the median income in every neighbourhood — and it is a lot lower than would allow for the purchase or rental of most condo and “market rental” properties on offer today.  Thus it would equate to affordable for at least half of the population.

Just a suggestion.

Image: Industrial Sculpture

November 15, 2015

Industrial Sculpture no 1